The Burma Army attacked troops from the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) on Sunday while a team of RCSS medics carried out COVID-19 awareness activities in southern Shan State’s Mongpan Township.
Lt-Col Ohm Khur, an RCSS spokesperson, said that the fighting occurred near Nar Won village at around 3:00 p.m. on April 12 and lasted around 15 minutes.
“It’s confirmed,” he said. “Government forces patrolled the area without informing our liaison office, so we had a clash with them.”
The government forces involved were LIB 153, based between the villages of Kawng Pet and Nawng Lay in Nar Won village tract.
LIB 153 has tried to block the RCSS’s medical team from providing services in the area since early April, the RCSS has said. Villagers also have said that they have been told by the Burma Army not to accept medical checks provided by the RCSS.
The RCSS has launched an awareness campaign around the COVID-19 pandemic in their territory and their medics have been monitoring for signs of the virus in locals—including temperature checks—while sharing information in Shan about how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including the need for handwashing and mask-wearing.
Ethnic health organizations and medics from ethnic armed organizations operate in rural conflict-affected areas where government health services are often not available and frequently not trusted, due to language barriers and the long-running civil war with the Burmese state.
SHAN reported on April 3 that the Shan State government had only US$360,000 remaining in its disaster relief fund to fight coronavirus in the state, raising questions as to how the government will address the pandemic in ethnic regions and areas where the civil war continues.
The RCSS is one of 10 ethnic armed organizations signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government and military. Its status as a signatory has not stopped clashes from occurring with the Burma Army, which occurred as recently as March in Mongton and Mong Kung.